- Drive an incredibly beautiful 23 km up to the summit of Sveti Jure in the Biokovo National Park.
- Relax on the beach under the imposing Biokovo Mountain Range.
- Enjoy the nightlife along the bustling promenade and dance the night away in a cave bar.
- Take a day trip to the impressive fort at Omis or relax on the beautiful beaches of the island of Brac.
The Makarskan Riviera is located about 65km south of Split and 150km north of Dubrovnik. An often overlooked town (as tourists tend to travel from Split to Dubrovnik via Hvar), Makarska offers a relaxing and enjoyable stopover when travelling through Dalmatia. You will find plethora of good restaurants spread out along the 1km long promenade. The town is itself is also relatively easy to get around by car.
What to see and do
Biokovo National Park
Feel up for a challenge? What about a challenge that includes amazing views over the Adriatic? Then drive through the Biokovo National Park up to the summit of Sveti Jure - 1762m above Makarska. The 23km drive from the park entrance (50kn per person) is not for the faint hearted as it is a seriously steep and windy road! Don't be put off as the road offers spectacular panoramic views over the Adriatic.
On a sunny day you will be able to see the islands of Hvar, Korcula and Brac with the deep blue backdrop of the Adriatic. On a clear day (usually after it has rained the day before) you can even see the coast of Italy!
The road to the summit is a two way road but in reality it is a skinny one way road with little juts in the road for overtaking. The speed limit is 30km/h but we wouldn't worry too much about it as you rarely have a chance to go that quick. If you meet a car coming the other direction don't panic and look for one of the many nooks in the road. The worst situation we had was when we met a truck going up and we had to reverse down about 500m; other than that we didn't have any issues pulling in before meeting an oncoming car. As a general rule, the car coming down the slope has right of way.
The best time to drive up Biokovo is early in the day, before too many people are on the road as you don't want to have to pass too many cars going up!. The park opens at 7am - we got there around 7:30 and only passed a small truck coming down.
If you don't have a car or love to hike, you can walk up the mountain range. The hikes all start from Makarska and the paths are clearly signed with a red circles. If you were to walk all the way from Makarska to Sveti Jure it would take you about 9-10 hours. The tourist office has many suggested walks.
Below is a short video of part of the road and what you can expect:
How to get to the Biokovo National Park entrance: the entrance is situated approximately 6km from Makarska on the 512 (turn off the main road onto the 512 at the petrol station as you enter Volicija). See the map below to give you an idea.
Makarska has, in our opinion, the most beautiful beach in Croatia. The beach is a long stretch of fine stones (not quite sand) but what makes it so amazing is having the rugged Biokovo Mountains as a stunning backdrop. This is a hot spot for Croatian tourists in summer and so you will find that the beach can get packed early.
To get to the beach: Makarska itself is a deep port but if you follow the promenade north towards Brela you will stumble across the stunning beach within minutes. You can also find some great little spots between Makarska and Brela by walking further down the promenade (not to mention some great spots to have a drink or two).
Where to stay?
We stayed at Apartments Pivac for four nights. Our apartment was a short 10 minute walk down to the main promenade, had great facilities (including a washing machine!) and brand new interior as it was only built in 2014, it offered beautiful sea views, and is perfect if you have a car as there is parking on site that is very easy to get to. A great base.
Eating + drinking
Makarska has some delicious local restaurants; however like many tourist hot spots it also has just as many very average ones. The highlight for us was a small place called Konoba Kalalargra
Konoba Kalalargra does not have a printed menu; the chefs change the menu everyday depending on what fresh food they have purchased that morning, which the waiters will go through with you when you're ready to order. They offer a selection of about three meat dishes and three seafood dishes. All fish dishes come with amazingly crispy potato crisps. The cost is very reasonable - we had two mains, salad, grilled vegetables and a bottle of wine for 250kn. The Konoba is situated just back from the main promenade at 40 Kalalargra street and they have about 5 tables outside and an inside dining area. Get in early or make a booking as it looks like they are becoming quite popular.
To have a drink in an unreal setting we would suggest going to Deep; a bar/club tucked away inside a cave. In summer the bar is very popular and is full by about 11:30pm most nights. However it is only open in the summer months.
Day trips from Makarska
1. Brela & Omis
Brela is the next main town over from Makarska and is known as the pearl of the Makarska Riviera. You can walk to Brela along the beachfront all the way from Makarska; you can also hire bikes to do this. This can be a good idea in the height of summer to try and find a quieter piece of beach.
Omis is a small town located 37km from Makarska and 25km from Split. The town is surrounded by gorges in the mountain and split by the River Cetina. The highlight of Omis is the Romanesque fortress which was used as a safe house for when pirates use to attack the tow. The walk to the fortress takes about 45 minutes and it can get very hot during summer so make sure you bring some water. The entrance into the fortress costs 15kn. The top of the fortress offers stunning views of Omis and the Adriatic. An absolute must! Omis is also a good spot for whitewater rafting.
2. Island hop to Hvar, Korcula or Brac
There are hundreds of tourist operators in Makarska who offer trips to one or more islands in the day. Bol (Brac), is an ideal spot to relax on the beach; while Korcula offers a beautiful old town (a smaller version of Dubrovnik).
If you are going to use a tour company we would recommend Atlas; they are one of the oldest travel agencies in Croatia and we have experienced some amazing tours with them (not to mention, they are also spoken of in high regard by the locals - always a good sign!).